WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., June 3, 2010 —
When I first met William, five years ago on a blustery April afternoon, I knew I had found something special.
“I’ve got a lot to offer,” he said, as I listened with the impressionable eagerness of an overachieving high school student, “and I can’t help noticing that you are rather well-rounded.”
Our courtship was typical: a protracted flirtation in which backgrounds were dissected and attributes appraised. I read his guidebooks, his blogs; he read my personal essay, my recommendations. He was certainly my type: preppy, athletic, a small town intellectual who liked the outdoors and was attractive in the most charmingly pastoral manner. He was financially generous, and, rumor had it, extremely well endowed.
“Aren’t you a little old for me?” I teased, as our courting intensified.
William was two hundred and seventeen.
“Give us a chance,” he replied.
So I did. As of September 2006, we were officially together—although not necessarily cohesive. My previous relationship, a four-year affair with high school, had been both controlling and unsatisfying, but I nevertheless found myself unable to move on.
“It’s Mountain Day!” announced William, impeccably dressed in autumnal foliage.
“I want to go home,” I whined, distracted by memories of my former life.
“Let’s go dancing!” suggested William, giddy with the promise of First Fridays.
“I’m really awkward,” I replied, as if that wasn’t a fundamental commonality.
“What is it you want?” asked William, erecting another building (this time a Student Center) for my enjoyment.
“I don’t know,” I said, burying my face in the pages of Principles of Macroeconomics.
That first year, I struggled with workaholism. William did his best to support me, but unknowingly, he was part of the problem. A+ papers were the only affection I knew how to understand, and, more problematically, they were the only kind he seemed able to give. Again and again, I turned to my textbooks, stayed up all hours in the library. It seemed that our mutual interest in academia, the one that once brought us together, had started tearing us apart.
We both realized we needed some fun and decided to spend the summer together. From June to August, I had no homework, and William had no distractions. After ten weeks of pick-up frisbee, Lickety Split ice cream, and swims in the Green River, we were finally able to connect on a deeper level. The prospect of another year together seemed too good to be true.
Maybe it was. As my sophomore year wore on, and I flitted from the art studio to the English department to the bowels of the Bronfman Science Center, I grew indecisive and confused.
“There are too many choices,” I said, as William looked helplessly on, “how am I supposed to know what I need?”
“Darling,” he tried telling me, “you know I’m need-blind.”
His promises fell flat. I was tired of his provincial nature, his obsession with political correctness. While William did his best to be worldly and entertaining—bringing me Flamenco dancers and Michael Pollen and unprecedented socioeconomic diversity—I felt claustrophobic, bored.
“I think we should start seeing other people,” I said, and left.
I went to New York. It was the fall of my junior year and I was itching for adventure. The city seduced me in a matter of days; it wasn’t long before I was introduced to NYU, a hipster with a penchant for tight jeans and Parliaments. While William had been attentive to the point of being overbearing, NYU was alluringly detached. She was fresh, hip, spontaneous. After a month of art openings and celebrity sightings and stores that stayed open past 5 p.m., I decided to make my feelings known.
“I think I really like you,” I shouted, straining to be heard over the cacophony of traffic and construction.
“Huh?” said NYU, “what’s your name again?”
Needless to say, things didn’t work out. I moved on, and in January relocated to the Bahamas. My stay resulted in a Winter Study one-night stand: a brief but torrid liaison with the Cape Eleuthera Island School. The beaches, the coconut palms, all those sexy solar panels soaking up sun on dorm room rooftops, they made for a passionate encounter, but ultimately, I found myself ready to return to William.
“Do you feel used?” I asked the Bahamas, as I packed my suitcase to leave.
The Bahamas looked at its golf courses and resorts, and sighed, “I’m used to it.”
That spring, William and I finally struck a balance of work and play. I accepted him for what he was, realizing that I needed to be proactive in our relationship. When I grew tired of his cooking, I went to Thai Garden. When bored, I embraced the idea of awkward dancing and brisk sunrise hikes. I even wore a sweatshirt with his name on it.
“William,” I whispered, after another exhausting but satisfying all-nighter, “I think I love you.”
And yet, as with all great romances, tragedy loomed inescapable. As a matter of circumstance, William and I must part ways this spring. I am graduating, and a long distance relationship is unrealistic.
“We can still be friends,” offered William, when I expressed my distress.
Perhaps he’s right, perhaps we can. Even though I’ve heard William is the kind of ex who requests numerous “donations” down the line, and even though he is already eyeing a new crop of prefrosh, I am grateful for the incredible journey we’ve had together.
“You know William,” I said recently, as I looked out at his rolling purple physique, his well-groomed quads, and the other stately properties that won me over four years ago, “I’ve learned a lot from you.”
Written by Allegra Hyde, Williams College Class of 2010; from